Shoot-out jury undecided after day of deliberating

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2007, 12:00am

The jury in the city's most high-profile inquest spent six hours deliberating on the cause of death of three policemen and a security guard yesterday, but failed to reached any verdict.

The five-member jury had to spend last night at the High Court jury room and will return to their deliberations at 9.30am today. It is the first time an overnight stay has been necessary for an inquest jury.

Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu also took an unusual step in his final instructions to the jurors yesterday by telling them to identify off-duty constable Tsui Po-ko as the one who shot dead constables Leung Shing-yan and Tsang Kwok-hang and security guard Zafar Iqbal Khan if they found sufficient evidence to support the allegation in each of these deaths.

In normal circumstances, the Coroner's Court investigates only the cause and circumstances of death. It does not apportion blame to anyone or claim anyone to be criminally liable for a death. But since Tsui, the alleged killer, is dead, no question of criminal liability arises.

Tsui, an off-duty policeman, is alleged to have killed Leung and stolen his gun in an ambush in March 2001, and to have robbed a bank with the missing gun in December of that year.

He was found dead in a Tsim Sha Tsui underpass in March last year, after allegedly shooting dead Tsang and wounding constable Wilson Sin Ka-keung with the stolen gun - although evidence revealed that Tsui did not previously know the two patrolling policemen.

The jury is expected to consider if the mask retrieved beside Leung's body, said to carry Tsui's DNA, is strong proof against him. It is also expected to consider whether the red polo shirt and a pair of trainers that Tsui was seen wearing in home videos were those worn by the person who robbed the Tsuen Wan bank and fatally shot Khan.

The much-awaited verdicts were put on hold on the 36th day of the hearing after Mr Chan instructed the jury to rest at about 6pm, saying they had already faced a long day of work.

The jurors, who are sitting at Eastern Court, were taken by car to the High Court after dinner. They were ordered not to make any phone calls. Two judiciary officials accompanied the jurors to their overnight quarters.

Before they retired to begin deliberations, Mr Chan told the jurors they should consider if unlawful killing could account for the deaths of Leung, Tsang and Khan.

'You should bear in mind that there is always some missing evidence or clarification in court hearings. Conflicting evidence and testimony is common,' Mr Chan said.

For the death of Tsui, Mr Chan asked the jury to consider the option of lawful killing. Otherwise, they should return an open verdict.